Parasiliti -Elementary run is one for good measure

October 07, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

For a number of years, there has been an ongoing debate about the measure of a man.

Samuel Johnson, an 18th century author wrote "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."

Later, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., went a step further: "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience," because "Our society is one in which a man is far more frequently measured by his looks, job, status symbols, gift-giving, sex appeal, or tough-guy exterior. Few people are wise and patient enough to measure a man by 'where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.'"

That passage made me wonder. What is the measure of a child?

One standard arose on Saturday morning by just watching Isaiah Brooks and Justin Herold compete as two of 759 children in the 27th annual Elementary School Cross Country Run, sponsored by the Washington County Board of Education, at the grounds across from Eastern Elementary School.


As measurements go, Brooks won out in speed and athletic ability while Herold was superior in size. If you go by time, Brooks was about 15 minutes better, as the Potomac Heights fifth-grader was the first of 118 participants of his race to cross the finish line. Herold was the very last finisher in the entire race.

But if you took the time to measure the heart of the two, it might be dead even, with perhaps a slight edge going to Herold. Brooks finished and got the trophy, but Herold just finished.

"It was a good feeling," said the tired and taxed Herold as he navigated through the finishing chute.

In a way, Herold might have won the biggest and most important award of all: Self achievement.

Both boys could be poster children for the annual elementary school run. It was a fun way to finish the school year's first section of the physical education curriculum as these runners, representing 25 schools, trained as teams to get ready for the event.

But there was a more serious message in this age of obesity, television and video games.

"We are trying to encourage fitness and daily exercise," said Rich Secrest, the director of the event. "Running is something that is a life-long activity."

Brooks jetted to the front of the pack at the start of the one-mile race. He easily pulled away until making the final turn for home. Then, a little reality got in the way as he slowed up and allowed Paramount's Tyler Sierzega to close the gap.

"As soon as I saw all the people (the sea of spectators), I got scared," Brooks said. "But if I stopped, I would have lost. I just kept breathing."

Brooks said he wanted to win for his school and that he had won his race in last year's Junior Olympics. Then, in his boyhood zeal with wide-eyed dreams, he admitted that this race might be leading to future plans.

"I want to be a football player," Brooks said. "I run for the heck of it because I want to be rich."

Herold was a much different - and more compelling - competitor.

The pack rushed by him as he left the starting line. He fell, losing his balance about 100 meters after the start. Herold struggled to his feet, took a few more steps to go up the first hill, and fell again.

Many lesser people -myself included - may have been embarrassed and just walked off the course. I admit, the only thing that runs in my house is my refrigerator.

But Herold trudged on to slay his dragon.

The majority of the race had ended. The top 30 finishers had already been logged for their awards as a rush of applause and encouragement began to swell.

Herold was making his final trek down the home stretch. He was joined by Erin Shank, his Salem Elementary special education teacher, and his father, Vince, for the finishing strides of his odyssey.

He was a little punchy after the journey, but had his priorities straight.

"I just wanted to keep going because my family was here rooting me on," he said. "I wanted to keep going because I wanted to beat someone."

In a way, he did. He beat the self-doubt that comes from people telling someone that they can't do something. He showed the heart and conviction of "where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

There were six races on Saturday and for every Isaiah Brooks, there was a Justin Herold.

Those victories - both competitive and individual - may very well show the true measure of a lifetime.

Bob Parasiliti is a sports writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131 ext. 2310, or by e-mail at Read his blog at

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